Diana Wynne Jones

The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones: The themes that repeat in DWJ’s fiction—many worlds, time travel, memory—are all present here, but in yet another new and original permutation. I’m always amazed by how many worlds she invents and how no two of them are ever alike. The Merlin Conspiracy isn’t the most evenly structured story, and I do think The Year of the Griffin or Fire and Hemlock were more well-written, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. It took me a while to get absorbed in the story (I had the same trouble with Deep Magic, the prequel), I have to admit, but I think that had more to do with my own mental state than with the book itself. I did realize, after finishing the book and looking over my favorite chapters again (I always have to do that with DWJ books, just to appreciate all the foreshadowing that I can only appreciate in retrospect—plus, some of her stories, like Hexwood have such entangled plots that you need to review in order to rearrange everything in chronological order), that it was paced somewhat strangely and that a little too much happened in the last chapter. Of course, there are many DWJ novels that give me this impression of having finished too quickly, and I don’t think of it as a flaw, really. You read DWJ to appreciate the originality of her ideas, the charisma of her characters, not the precise form of her plot (which often are unconventional or seem to ramble but are never uncontrolled). The plot itself is interesting, and you don’t realize that something’s a little weird about the pace until you think about it again.

And, thinking about it again, that pacing may have been essential to the story after all. DWJ often writes these stories where you wander into subplot after subplot, with seemingly irrelevant details that end up feeding into a large intricate final climax. I suppose one could draw a parallel to the way J.K. Rowling neatly ties up her plot endings, but it’s not the same really, because DWJ makes you really think.

I wish I could explain it more clearly, but I’m sleepy, and I probably should go to bed now. Besides, I’ve read twenty-five DWJ books, and while I can draw connections among them, any time I try to make a generalization, some sort of exception pops up in my head. She’s just slippery and marvelously creative like that.